QCOSS supports the Working with Children (Indigenous Communities) Amendment Bill’s objective to improve the Blue Card framework to better serve the interests of Indigenous communities in relation to employment and child protection.
While the Bill’s focus is on employment outcomes, many of the issues raised by our sector relate to the way in which the Blue Card system impedes kinship care arrangements under the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld).
We note that the Bill’s proponent Mr Robbie Katter MP is open to further amendments to make the Bill more workable.
What our sector says:
In preparing this submission QCOSS has canvassed the views of our membership and sector stakeholders including specialist peak bodies whose focus relates to the wellbeing and protection of children. We summarise some of the feedback raised:
- The Bill only deals with a select number of serious criminal offences. It does not address the long-standing (and growing) problem of discretionary decisions under section 221(2) WWCA. These decisions permit negative notices to be issued in ‘exceptional cases’ which in practice has a net-widening effect and produces unjust outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants.
- Members expressed concern that the recently launched Strategy and Action plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Organisations Accessing the Blue Card System will not go far enough towards removing the structural barriers that this Bill seeks to overcome.
- Regional differences: This Bill contemplates a solution for remote, discrete communities however some of our members queried whether this would necessarily be the ‘best fit’ solution for urban community justice groups. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander blue card applicants who reside in urban areas will still likely be burdened by the Blue Card system’s overreach as they will not benefit from the local, interpersonal connections and relationships that are a feature of rurality.
- Regarding Blue Card decisions for kinship care, one suggestion put forward was the possibility of Kinship Care panels being used to assess positive notices in lieu of community justice groups.
QCOSS supports the Bill for the human rights-promoting effect it will have on local communities. We recognise the Member for Traeger’s leadership and dedication to the issue of self-determination of our state’s First Nations peoples.
Ultimately, we consider that the issues this Bill seeks to address are part of a larger call for reform to the Blue Card system. We recommend broader and deeper consultation and a comprehensive human rights analysis about these issues